Caffeine Addiction a Mental Disorder?

caffeine-addiction-mental-disorderCaffeine Addiction has not yet been classified as a mental disorder by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Despite a lot of pressure from groups of doctors and health advocates, the latest version was released this year without the caffeine addiction disorder diagnosis.

However, this doesn’t mean that caffeine related problems were eliminated from the DSM-5 entirely. A couple disorders related to caffeine consumption were place in the manual by The American Psychiatric Association.

DSM-5 Caffeine Addiction Related Disorders

Both caffeine withdrawal and caffeine overdose did make it into the latest diagnostic manual.  Here are the criteria for both.

Caffeine Overdose as a Mental Disorder

The official caffeine overdose diagnosis can be made as long as 5 of these overdose symptoms are present:

  1. Restlessness
  2. Nervousness
  3. Excitement
  4. Insomnia
  5. Flushed face
  6. Frequent urination
  7. Upset stomach, diarrhea
  8. Muscle spasms
  9. Fast and incoherent speech
  10. Irregular heartbeat
  11. Periods of inexhaustibility
  12. Psychomotor agitation

Caffeine Withdrawal as a Mental Disorder

Those withdrawing from caffeine can also be classified if they exhibit caffeine withdrawal symptoms such as:

  1. Headaches
  2. Constipation
  3. Lethargy
  4. Inability to concentrate
  5. Depression
  6. Muscle stiffness

See our complete list of caffeine withdrawal symptoms here. 

Why Isn’t Caffeine Addiction Listed?

There’s pretty strict criteria for what makes it into the DSM-5 and caffeine addiction was most likely debated extensively. Based on what we know about caffeine, in the end, it probably wasn’t placed in the DSM-5 for the following reasons.

  • Caffeine is consumed daily by billions of people worldwide with very little to no health consequences for the vast majority. We would estimate that less than a tenth of one percent of the world’s population have any adverse reactions to this drug.
  • There is little to no evidence that caffeine is harmful to the human body when consumed in moderation or that it interferes with normal mental functioning and productivity.
  • While caffeine does have addictive properties it doesn’t foster deep psychological and physiological dependency as do controlled addictive substances. People can generally detox from caffeine and function normally in a couple days without professional intervention.

This issue has been debated as far back as 2007 and most likely will continue to be debated by The American Psychiatric Association as they begin work on the DSM-6. For now, caffeine addiction isn’t yet classified as a mental disorder although many health professionals feel that it should be.

We can attest that there are some people, who at least on some level, can become pretty addicted to caffeine and we even put together a Caffeine Addiction Diagnosis Quiz, so people can determine just how addicted to caffeine they are.

Caffeine addiction is more about people’s need to increase their dosage as the body builds up tolerance to the chemical. Therefore, it takes more and more caffeine to produce the desired effects. In any event, caffeine addicts can’t be officially labeled just yet.

Caffeine Use Disorder

Caffeine use disorder isn’t yet in the DSM-5, but has recently gained some attention as the result of a study conducted by American University in Washington DC.

This caffeine disorder basically refers to someone that is unable to reduce or give up caffeine even though it may be contributing to negative outcomes like insomnia, anxiety, or heart conditions.

People may have Caffeine Use Disorder if they fit the following guidelines:

  1. Caffeine users suffer withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit.
  2. They are unable to reduce or quit their caffeine consumption.
  3. They have an underlying health condition that requires them to reduce or quit.

Professor Laura Juliano said the following about her co-authored study:

There is misconception among professionals and lay people alike that caffeine is not difficult to give up. However, in population-based studies, more than 50 percent of regular caffeine consumers report that they have had difficulty quitting or reducing caffeine use.

It will be interesting to see if Caffeine Use Disorder makes it into the next version of the DSM.

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  • Palatable_monsterness

    I think the doc has a mental disorder…i would say that its mental retardation but its probably alot more than thatO.o if his family is reading this, may i suggest a strait jacket for his christmas present>.< or mayby a lobotomy:)

  • Tim

    This is either fine, or completely ridiculous. Are other drug addictions listed in the DSM?

  • ted

    Yeah Tim, I believe they are.

  • Tim

    I just researched it; the only diagnosis listed in the current version of the DSM (IV) is “substance dependence.” Why should caffeine get its own category?

  • ted

    Probably somewhere in manual substance is defined which would list various drugs, I think he wants caffeine added to that list.

  • Nick

    “believes that caffeine should be considered an addictive substance”

    You mean it isn’t already? I think a lot of people know this by now.

  • Mark

    This is Pretty amazing so this is on twitter Myspace and Facebook u should add it to Myspace

    Check Your Myspace

  • Scott

    Maybe I’ve taken the original text out of line here, but I think its pretty scary how one guy can see fit to compare heroin and cocain to that of caffine, “similar to people who are addicted to other substances such as heroin or cocaine”. It is said that more than 50% of Americans drink coffee and over 66% drink soda. Thats a lot of caffine. Is this guy trying to say that over half the American population are mental just because they like a little “pick-me up”? I think he just wants to be famous for something.

  • I do not think he can do it. Reason for it is because it would be hard to statistically determine if a person can even get withdrawal symptoms for caffeine. There is a huge difference between caffeine abuse and caffeine dependence. I think it would differ person to person. That is just my opinion 🙂

  • Brooke

    Caffeine intoxication is already listed in the current DSM-IV. It wouldn’t be a far stretch for the APA to list caffeine addiction, since it can be considered a drug (it alters the way your body functions; then again, using the definition they use-deodorant could be considered a drug also)

  • chris

    Caffeine is a very addictive substance! more addictive than alcohol and marijuana.. at least it is to me. I cant go a day without caffeine.. i am chris and i am a caffeine addict!

  • ted

    and Chris we accept you and love you anyway!

  • Douglas

    Brooke, in many ways, deodorant is a drug. It even has drug information labels on the back.

  • alf

    now i’m reading this i take my drug…i’m from germany, my coffycup is about 0.5 litres, like a big beer glass. i’m addicted to coffy…everyday…i am alf and i am a caffeine addict!

  • Dan

    Cannabis (Marijuana is a nickname) is not inherently addictive. While anything from reading to exercise can become addictive to someone cannabis contains no addictive chemicals such as nicotine. Also I built a pyramid out of vanilla coke six pack boxes, Yay me!

  • Anna

    I can’t stop drinking soda even though I know I have to I tell myself ok you only get one today and the next thing I know I’ve had five with in 3 hours it’s not good Please someone help

  • Ted

    Could you try not buying it? Sounds simple but if it’s in the house you probably will drink it. If you have to run to the store to drink one, you’ll be less likely to make the effort.

  • Jean

    I’m nocturnal but whenever I drink a cup of coffee, it makes me sleepy. What’s that? Am I crazy? Please help. Thanks!

  • Ted

    You are what we call “non-sensitive” to caffeine. You are not alone but it is pretty rare. We are going to publish an article on the subject soon.

  • Linda Fatialofa

    I think you may have missed the point.. Inclusion of caffeine use disorder within the DSM one would need to meet specific thresholds. It must markedly cause impairment or distress. It’s not referring to your morning afternoon or coffees, it’s referring to overuse which causes statistical impairment and or distress.

Last Modified: December 16, 2016